Life is filled with changes. From relocating your home to starting at a new school, losing a loved one to having your first heartbreak—we all will, inevitably, go through shifts in our lives (both good and bad). However, learning how to move through those changes can be challenging, especially when you’re young. This is why it’s so incredibly important for parents to guide their children if and when these unexpected times occur.
There are many ways to help your child cope with big life changes, but everything starts with empathy. Once you understand what your child is experiencing (and recognize that it’s often heavier for them than it is for you), you can begin to meet them where they are and help them heal. Here are some gentle suggestions to guide you as you (both) move through these tough moments.
Give Them Your Undivided Attention
One of the most powerful ways to help your child cope with big life changes is to be there. Make yourself available (even just as a sounding board) because this lets your child know that they can depend on you, and more importantly, that you care. Providing your child with your undivided attention can make transitions smoother; it can also provide a solid foundation. And creating this solid foundation, especially when your child is young, can give them the confidence to come to you in the future (which is invaluable in the teen years!).
Ultimately, kids need to know that they will be safe, cared for, and loved. Parents can do this by showing their children that they understand their feelings and that it’s normal to experience sadness or fear when something changes. Children also need to be given time to adjust to changes, so giving them the space to move through the change on their own timeline is important, too.
Honor Your Child’s Feelings
During times of change, honor your child’s feelings and involve them in the process of healing. You can do this by asking them for their opinions on decisions, offering meaningful tasks will help them feel in control, and giving them extra attention.
To help your child cope with big life changes, another good idea is to create a consistent and predictable routine. This will provide the safety and security that’s much-needed; it will also combat stress. You may also want to consider teaching some emotional self-regulation skills, too, like guiding breathing, affirmations, or calm-down techniques.
Create A Peaceful Environment
If you’re moving, trying to settle after a move, or even if you haven’t moved and your child is experiencing feelings of instability or insecurity, try to find ways to make their physical environment more peaceful. Creating a room for your child to call home can be both fun and challenging. From decorating the walls to incorporating their passions, there are countless ways to make their space feel like their own.
A great way to decorate a room for your child is to include the little things. For instance, focus on mementos, favorite colors, or a few statement pieces (like a plush chair or handmade quilt for example). If possible, try to create alignment between their current space and other rooms in the house and/or old rooms or spaces that your child was once comfortable in.
Give Them A Voice
When it comes to big life shifts, you may struggle to find your way and this translates to your child, too. Make sure that you’re exercising your voice and working on your own mental health so that you can best show up for your children. (You can find out more information on how to cope with a life-changing event as an adult).
Just as you want to find your voice, it’s important to let your child have a say in their daily life, too, especially during these big life changes. When kids feel like they have a say, they’re more empowered and likely to make strong, smart decisions. Children will also feel more secure.
Talking about changes will also help children prepare for the present and the future. By talking through these moments, you can help your child build coping skills. Plus, if you listen to your child and offer reassurance, this will build bonds of empathy and trust. Not only will they feel loved but you’ll both grow closer together. . . and as life inevitably throws things your way, you’ll be able to take them on—together.